Posts Tagged ‘Reproduction’

Shadow Giller Winner 2019

November 18, 2019

It was an unusual year for us shadow jurors – with only two of us reading and reviewing the books – so we went about our deliberations a little differently. Marcie and I revealed our top two books (of the six on the shortlist), and Alison (who has read four of the six books) joined in our discussion.

We are thrilled to announce that this year (and in the spirit of the Booker) we have a tie!

Congratulations to Michael Crummey (Doubleday Canada) and Ian Williams (Random House Canada)!


Jury Citation for The Innocents: “Written in a language that is at the same time fresh and ancient, Michael Crummey’s The Innocents is a (mis)creation myth that demands a reconsideration of what we think we know about love and death, family and loneliness, oblivion and wisdom, horror and beauty, bodies and knowledge, violence and desire. Anchored in exquisite specificity and heartbreaking simplicity, and inviting us into a distant past that makes fresh matters of ever-present concern about survival and sacrifice, Crummey’s novel has the capacity to change the way the reader sees the world.”

Jury Citation for Reproduction: “Ian Williams’s Reproduction is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.”


Our thoughts on The Innocents

Alison: “It’s a brave and beautiful book.”

Marcie: “Michael Crummey is a favourite writer of mine. There are a lot of qualities I admire in his novel and I wouldn’t be sorry to see it take the prize. In terms of story and language, it’s outstanding. Also, I have a soft spot for fiction which emerges from history. And apparently this story was pulled from the history books. I also have a predilection towards stories about the forgotten and overlooked, and The Innocents reminds me how often stories of the powerless are relegated to the margins. Some might feel that this work does not represent a diverse choice, but the story of these two children is not an oft-told tale: it is, nonetheless, an archetypal tale, too. It’s an engaging story about how fragile we are, as human beings, and how tragic circumstances can be devastating but also empowering: these children are victims in one sense but are valiant in every other sense.”

Naomi:I was mesmerized by Crummey’s use of language throughout the book. In addition, he took a sensitive subject (that even he admitted to not wanting to touch) and turned it into a tender story of survival that is successful at eliciting feelings of compassion and sympathy for its characters and their circumstances.”


Our thoughts on Reproduction

Marcie:For me, Reproduction scratches every literary itch I have: it leaves me satisfied after just a single reading and, simultaneously, yearning to reread, with an awareness that there are still many echoes and layers that I likely missed along the way. The way that the theme resonates throughout the novel tickles my reader’s fancy; I enjoy puzzling out the ways that habits and attachments, mistakes and fractures reproduce in the narrative. One aspect that I particularly admire is the way that the novel thickens as the pages accumulate; across the generations, the human patterns intersect and loop in different directions, until it’s all a blur of loving and losing. And even though absences overshadow presences at times, bonds remain and you’re left to imagine the ways in which these characters’ stories will continue to reproduce after the last page has been turned.”

Naomi:The thought and creativity that went into this book amazes me. Not only do we get an engaging story with strong characters, we also get an interesting and playful structure (whether you choose to pay attention to it or not).”


Now we wait to see what the real Giller Prize jury has to say. They will name their official winner tonight (Monday, November 18th)! For specific timings, please visit the official website.


What do you think of our choice(s)? How do you feel about the tie? Which book would you choose?


You can find the review links to all the shortlisted books here!


We have also done some longlist reading. Here’s where you can find our reviews:

Days By Moonlight by André AlexisConsumed by Ink  and Buried in Print

Dream Sequence by Adam FouldsConsumed by Ink

Late Breaking by K.D. MillerConsumed by Ink 

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-BentaConsumed by Ink

Greenwood by Michael Christie – coming soon to Buried in Print

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – coming soon to Buried in Print



Giller Shortlist: Reproduction by Ian Williams

October 19, 2019

Ian Williams landed in Marcie‘s stack with his longlisting for the ReLit Award in 2011…

This is why I read prizelists: they encourage me to read in different directions, when left to my own devices, I sometimes plod along, in familiar reading territory, simply out of habit.

The title of Williams’ debut poetry collection, You Know Who You Are reminded me of Alice Munro’s story collection, Who Do You Think You Are? And he does draw his epigraph for that collection from Munro. In confirming this, in the moment of flipping through his opening pages, some of my insecurity likely slipped away, for I’m not as comfortable reading verse as I am reading prose.

And Munro? She’s one of the first authors I read who made it seem possible that ordinary things that happen in very small towns in Ontario, even more specifically in the space between farm and town, could be the stuff of stories on printed pages. That little girls from ordinary places could dare to think they might write stories. About all that ordinary stuff. And here is this poet who maybe found that idea just as comforting as I did.

And what ordinary stuff? Who hurts us and who cares for us. Those we follow and those we flee. When the plot lives in whether you take a ride or stay home in the barn. And character resides in whether we ignore the noises behind the bathroom door or are thought uppity for taking a bus to see a play. And whether you eat half a grapefruit or a bowl of porridge for breakfast presents a glimpse of the future.


Like Marcie, I noted the ordinariness of the characters’ lives in Reproduction. And the brilliance of an author who can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary for the reader. 


Reproduction is character-driven, and the characters are distinct and strongly defined. Some are likeable, some are decidedly not – but they are all wonderfully imperfect and, well, … ordinary.

You might be able to argue that the odd character grows over the course of the book, but I’d argue that most of them do not. Most of them remain stubbornly the same – Edgar is just as maddening at the end as he is in the beginning; Oliver never stops whining about his ex-wife; Felicia’s determination never wavers; Army is still coming up with money-making schemes. You get the sense that they don’t care a fig that they’re in a book. They’re not thinking about redemption or forgiveness – they’re thinking about groceries and sex and paying the rent. The stuff of ordinary lives.


Marcie and I both found the second half of the book more challenging than the first. But Marcie makes the point that maybe it shouldn’t be easy to read.


… I suspect that most people found the second half of Ian Williams’ novel Reproduction a real challenge: I did. He doesn’t make it easy for his characters. He doesn’t make it easy for his readers.

But should it be easy? Is it easy for you to repeat the cyclical motion of your everyday life? Maybe reading about ordinary life should be harder? Maybe if we’ve got our noses pressed up against the ugly bits of the lives of characters like these, we might be more likely to spot a solution for them, tug at some thin thread of hope that we could put to use ourselves.


To read Marcie’s post in full, visit Buried in Print.

To read Marcie’s mind-blowing review of Reproduction, visit The Temz Review. (You don’t want to miss this!)

To read Naomi’s post in full, visit Consumed by Ink.


We would love to hear your thoughts on Reproduction. What do you think of the structure? What do you admire most about the book? Did you find it challenging to read? 


You can find the reading schedule for the shortlist here.

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